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Rosy-Finches, Black & Brown-capped: Facts, Photos, & More

Updated on June 12, 2015

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For the meanings of bird parts which you do not understand in this Hub, see my bird glossary.

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Black Rosy Finch in New Mexico

 Black Rosy-Finch photographed at Crest House on Sandia Crest near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Black Rosy-Finch photographed at Crest House on Sandia Crest near Albuquerque, New Mexico. | Source

Interesting facts:

The Black Rosy-Finch builds a nest inside of cliff crevices and on large boulders between the elevations of 10,000 and 13,000 feet.

In the summer of 2002 Maureen Ryan attempted what only three people known to science did before her. She discovered a Black Rosy-Finches nest at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet in Utah’s Uinta Mountains.

The Black Rosy-Finch forms and defends an ‘invisible’ territory around his mate no matter where she is – not just at the nest. This means that males are continuously chasing other males away from their female mates.

Since it lives so high, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is the only American species north of the Mexican line which also breeds at as high an elevation. Amazingly, even when it is -35 C in winters they will stay in these areas, as long as the snow depth does not cover up their food sources.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain National Park an average of 1,000-2,000 Brown-capped Rosy-Finches breeding population is being supported.


All three rosy-finches are about the same overall average:

The size which they grow to is basically 6 inches to 6 and one quarter inches (15.2. - 15.9 centimeters). When they open their wings, the length from tip to tip is about 13 inches. The male and the female are each the same weight - 0.91 oz.

The three rosy-finches all look pretty much the same but each has its distinct qualities.

Male (right) & female

 Black Rosy Finch male (right) and female in the same shot.
Black Rosy Finch male (right) and female in the same shot. | Source

Black Rosy-Finch ID (Leucosticte atrata):

  • Male:

The Black Rosy-Finch is distinguished from other rosy-finches because of its dark blackish-brown breast, neck and back. It does have a gray nape, headband and cap but they are darker than the Gray-crowned. He has much pink mixed with brown on the belly, wing patches and tail sections plus a rosy rump. Each sex has a yellowish bill but it may turn a bit blackish during breeding.

  • Female:

The female is generally blackish and has little gray on the nape or the crown. She does show some pink in several areas.

  • Juvenile:

The juvenile is similar to the female but the juvenile is lighter. Usually it is a grayer brown, lacking the silver-gray crown, black forehead, and pink on the feather margins.


The Black Rosy-Finch makes its nest in a cup which is made out of grasses and moss.The nest is placed on the ground, usually in things like rock crevices in talus slopes, cliffs or human structures such as cabins or bridges. When it is finished being set up, the female lays 4-5 white eggs and only she incubates them. Both parents assist each other to feed the young succeeding their eggs hatching. The fledglings leave the nest in approximately three weeks.

The eggs and the periods are the same for all three finches.

Range map

Map by Cornaell Lab of Ornithology
Map by Cornaell Lab of Ornithology | Source


Breeds in the Rocky Mountain regions of southwestern Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to northern Nevada, Utah and Colorado; spends winters south into northern Arizona and New Mexico.


Preferred habitats include alpine tundra and meadows; during the winter it can be found in nearby lowlands and farm yards.

Conservation status:

***** I have found two facts which seem to contradict each other, but I think that I have found more data to go with the first one. *****

  1. The Black Rosy-Finch currently has a rating of ‘Least Concern’. This bird is native to the United States and covers a large range. During the last decade, the population of this bird has remained stable and there is no concern that the Black Rosy-Finch will be at risk for a population decline in the next decade.
  2. The limited range of the Black Rosy-Finch and its current drop in population make it a conservation concern. In addition, there have been a few organized studies of this species because of the difficulty of entering its habitat and nesting sites.


Even though it has a small range, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is also at the ‘Least Concern’ level like the other two rosy-finches.

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Other facts:

In the winter when mixed flocks of rosy-finches roam the highlands of the Great Basin, Blacks and Gray-crowned are seen roosting together in caves or abandoned mine shafts, barns, or under bridges.

The Black Rosy-Finch alternates rapid wing beats with its wings pulled to the sides its body.





Brown-capped Rosy-Finch ID (Leucosticte australis):

  • Male:

The male is primarily brown all over including the breast and back. You could say that it looks similar to the Gray-crowned except that the Brown-capped does not have gray on its head – it is darker, almost a black cap – and a black forehead. Basically its coverts have a rosy look while its belly, flanks and rump are more of a pinkish-red. Some of the red also extends onto the breast. In the summer it has a black bill which in the winter turns yellow but with a black tip.

  • Female:

The female is simply a grayish brown all over and has no cap or crown to show.

  • Juvenile:

The juvenile is a drab gray-brown all over with pinkish wings.


I have added a brief song link (to the right) of a Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.


The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is a resident of the Rocky Mountains from southern Wyoming through central Colorado and into northern New Mexico. These birds descend to lower elevations near breeding areas in the winter.


The Brown-capped habitat is the same as the Black Rosy-Finch. The only difference between the habitat of these two and the Gray-crowned is that the Gray-crowned uses snowfields.

Conservation status:

You can tell your friends that the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is only a native to the United States. It also has a small range while it dwells in the tundra ecosystem. Plus it is currently on the 'Least Concern' list.

How to tell three rosy-finches apart.

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Author: Kevin - ©2013

© 2013 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      Thank you Monis Mas for reading my Hub and the nice comment. :-)

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 4 years ago

      You did some nice research. Interesting facts!